Turning Point Ensemble’s Firebird 2011Tuesday, March 01, 2011
At The Cultch March 2 - 5, 2011
895 Venables Street
Featuring the Turning Point Ensemble, Move: the company, set design by Alan Storey, costume design by Linda Chow, lighting by Conor Moore, guest dancer Matjash Mrozewski.
Guest Blog On the Collaboration Process of Firebird 2011
|From Left: Alison Denham, Jocelyn Morlock, Simone Orlando, standing Alan Storey, Jeremy Berkman |
I remember one of those embarrassing moments as a student in Conservatory when a music theory teacher retorted to a comment I made about going to see a certain musical production - "you don't go to SEE a concert you to HEAR it!". Well, the beauty of good music is that it fills more than one sense - it sounds, sure, but it also moves in our outer space, our inner space, it conjures smells, visions, textures, and most importantly has a physical relationship with our body. In collaborating on Firebird 2011 I was reminded of that embarrassing moment as I am always SO inspired by outstanding choreography and dance - and working with people who are so much more in tune with their bodies and relationship with their space than I feel I am. Their inspiration so positively affect my attempts at excellent musicianship - and the time I have been fortunate enough to share with Simone, Josh, Ali, Matjash, Heather, and Cai - and especially to watch and listen - (and I obviously mean that!) to how Simone and Jocelyn "danced" to find the right balance is something I cherish. And, you know, the only way we have been able to find enough space for these incredible dancers to work in the Cultch is that Alan Storey devised a multi-level set of beauty, simplicity, and yet clever efficiency so that the dancers can actually mingle with us whether we're on the stage floor or up on the third floor!
The other fascinating aspect of this collaboration involves our two discreet presentations. We all started with Stravinsky's Firebird music - with the prestige of the Rio Tinto Alcan Award we convinced the primary publisher of the ballet music to give us the performing rights to create an arrangement. Michael Bushnell, a local composer and frequent collaborator with choreographers - took on the immense task of taking a number of Stravinsky's versions of the work - from two- piano to an orchestra with four harps - and reduce it to TPE's 16 players. Simone and Jocelyn started with the Firebird story, knowing what they wanted to take from it was an essence more than anything else. Their collaboration would be to create a new work - a Firebird reborn - but maybe even transformed into something hardly recognizable! Intelligently, Simone and Jocelyn researched various versions of the Firebird story, and chose to be influenced by one that is an inner journey - one of loss and transformation - and create a phenomenal work that is extremely personal to them - and likely metaphorically so for many in our audience.
The evening is thus two discreet presentations - a concert of a new arrangement - one that will showcase the beauty of Stravinsky - and its grandeur, but in a more intimate way -- and a music/dance work that takes a very personal and inward journey and finds its expressiveness and grandeur in its presentation.
Jeremy Berkman, Artistic Co-Director and Trombonist, The Turning Point Ensemble
A lot of trust and generosity has gone into this process. In the creation process we learned a lot of each other’s movement material. There was an evolution of some of the movements through different people’s bodies. This sharing and expanding created a common ground in the movement vocabulary. It was a learning experience witnessing Simone Orlando (choreographer) and Jocelyn Morlock (composer) navigate the subtlety and the drama of the music and the choreography. They seemed to have a collaborative camaraderie. Jocelyn came to many rehearsals and sat watching us with her score spread out on the floor around her. We have only had a few days with the Turning Point Ensemble playing the score live. It is a big change from the recording we have been working with. There's spontaneity, an unknown to live performance - for the musicians and for the dancers. It has been tricky trying to find common and ideal timings for everybody but we are doing it and clear communication seems to be the key. Having live music definitely forces me to be very present as I'm dancing. I feel myself hyper aware because i can't rely on the same recorded version that's always the same. There's something electrifying between the dancers and the musicians. Encompassing us all is this beautiful set that Alan Storey has built. It creates a world for the piece to exist in. As a dancer in this piece i have tried to understand and fulfill Simone's vision of my role. Every time we do it it's a little bit different. Things change and shift keeping it alive and breathing.
Alison Denham, dancer
Hi Alex! It was fun seeing you this afternoon, much as I am a hesitant photographic subject. I hope my scarf shows itself to its best advantage...
Simone Orlando is a joy to work with. She is so intense and dedicated; and she responds to my music in ways I would never have imagined, and I in turn (hopefully) respond to the movements she creates. Together we have made a truly collaborative synthesis, one which never would've come about if, say, I wrote some music and then she choreographed it later, or vice versa. Creating Luft (our Firebird 2011 piece) has stretched both of us, and I am very proud of our efforts. All of the musicians and dancers have been incredibly hard-working, perceptive, and inventive; Owen Underhill has worked tirelessly to ensure that the music is performed with rhythmic vitality and zest; and Alan Storey has designed an amazing set which is visually and aurally striking, minimal (the Cultch stage is so small!), and also whimsical. I feel privileged to be part of this project.
Could you write something about the process? Something most of us are too ignorant to even suspect? What you wrote would be just fine in a program but...
What’s the process?
...I'm not sure what that would be - we discussed the moods we wanted, I would write 30-second or so "clips" of music, we would test those, see what might work, I would expand the music, they would try out various combinations of motions/gestures, the length of the music might change, more discussion of mood/direction, look at videos, sometimes I might add layers of instruments to stuff I'd written to start changing mood/direction/intensity, etc.
I have no idea if any of that is unexpected. One interesting thing I found is that dancers most often count in 8 regardless of the meter that the musicians are looking at on the page. However they counted one part that we needed to make longer in groups of 9, because I was in 3/4, and that made it much easier for me to add some music in that section. (It is hard to add, for example, "an eight" to 3/4 because it would be 2 and 2/3 bars of music, whereas adding 3 bars isn't very difficult as long as you can find a suitable place for a small expansion.)
Jocelyn Morlock, Composer
Turning Point Ensemble